ARIA will be changing its chart rules as of the end of this week (27 October 2018) to place a greater emphasis on paid subscription streaming.
Ever since ARIA introduced streaming data to its Australian music charts all historic continuity has been rendered worthless. Acts like Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran are now often cited as being bigger than The Beatles or ABBA in chart successes based on data where people listened instead of purchased the songs.
The digital era has created a completely different way for consumers to absorb music and, despite it being oranges and apples between the present and the past, everything has been thrown into one big fruit bowl.
Currently, ad-supported streaming services such as YouTube or Spotify’s free service allow music fans to listen without paying. Around 150 of those non-revenue generating ‘listens’ is meant to mean the same as a fan buying or downloading the song or album.
That creation has led to an unbalanced chart where active fan purchases are diluted by longtail listens (eg; A fan buying the new album first week in vs a fan streaming an artists songs six months after release because a playlist has lifted its profile).
The other chart issue is that with streaming or downloads, every song off a new album is like a single because it can be chosen individually, creating the apparition of success because multiple songs (Ed Sheeran, A Star Is Born, Drake, Eminem) enter the singles chart at the same time.
Again this is being compared to the past where one single was released every few months and explained by the media (incorrectly) as sales success when in fact it is just like (unqualified) airplay.
Airplay makes for another interesting factor in the chart credibility downfall. When popstars appeared on Countdown in the 70s and 80s, those millions of views (listens) did not qualify for the chart yet today’s YouTube views are treated almost the same.
According to ARIA, “The shift to a multi-level streaming approach to the ARIA Chart methodology is consistent with the global push to measure streams in a revenue-reflective and access-based manner. This new methodology replaces the current combined conversion rate, in which all streams are treated equally.
ARIA Chief Executive Officer, Dan Rosen added “As the way Australian fans listen to their favourite music continues to evolve, it has always been important that the ARIA Charts reflect what is happening in the marketplace. These changes ensure that the ARIA Charts remain the most comprehensive and trusted Charts in Australia”.
However, it remains to be seen if completely different consumer reactions over decades of time continue to be incorrectly compared.
Australia needs to do what America did. Draw a line in the sand and stop comparing new formulas with old formulas like they mean the same thing. America started referring to ‘The Soundscan era’ when their formula first changed in the 1991.
Drake is not ABBA. Lets stop pretending he is.